In a couple of months, I will have been freelancing full time for two years. So far the mortgage remains paid and I although I’m definitely struggling, I seem to be making a go of it. I’ve heard it said that with any new business, you really aren’t in the clear until you’ve been up and running for about five years. Writing for a living is no easy feat. I mean, it requires sitting down to write every day. No writer’s block allowed. It also requires something I hadn’t really thought much about before…. A lot of editing.
I think I spend more time editing than I do actually writing. The writing I pull together is varied. I write news pieces, blog posts, content for businesses, articles for magazines and books. All of this writing requires using a variety of voices and styles. Writing the Too Cute books for Animal Planet was a very different project than writing about a local nonprofit for the Press Enterprise. No matter what I’m working on though, all my work has one thing in common. It needs a great deal of editing.
Self-editing is a start. I do at least three edits on a finished piece. There is an immediate read through and edit. Then I read the piece out loud and edit it. This is incredibly helpful to me. I find that the longer I write, the more likely I am to drop words and read my work the way it formulated in my head rather than the way it landed on the page. Then I let the piece sit if possible and read it the next day one more time before I send it in.
This is often not enough. Hiring an editor for big projects is incredibly helpful and definitely worth the money. If you want your clients happy, your prose should be spotless when it’s published. Everyone these days is an editor and almost all writing makes it to a platform where the amateur editor can comment on it online. If you make a mistake, the masses are going to tell you. (And they won’t be kind about it.)
Lately, I’ve added a middle layer to my editing. I was offered a free trial of Grammarly to test and if I was interested review online. I jumped at the chance. Any means of editing help is one less headache for me! Editing programs will probably never be as perfect as several sets of human eyes, but every layer of help is valuable.
Grammarly works incredibly well for my purposes and is a much stronger editor than is found in Word. The plugin to Word is seamless and helpful. However, I find that the online features are more robust than the Word plugin and prefer to login online. To use the program online, you simply copy, paste and hit review. From there, you can toggle back and forth to make your edits on the master or copy and paste the everything into a document when you are finished editing. The only challenge with this for me is that I lose formatting when I cut and paste, so I try to make sure I check my writing before I do any major formatting (italics, bold, headers etc.)
Grammarly checks spelling, which I’ve normally handled by the time I run text through the program. It also takes a meticulous look at grammar usage. I’ve been reminded of a few rules I’ve forgotten, and it has definitely tightened up my sentence structure. You can choose between a variety writing styles. Whether it’s casual, business, academic, technical, or creative in style will influence what the software analyzes. It is also a great way to check for plagiarism and the need for citations.
These are great times to be a writer. Although writers find their work scrutinized more publicly and sometimes ruthlessly than in times past, the tools available are wonderful and getting better.
I love Grammarly because I’ve yet to figure out how to teach the parrots to edit my writing. Until then, I’ll use every helpful resource I can find.
No matter what I do, however, I find that the occasional mistake still slips past me and my assignment editor. Part of surviving as a writer is to be able to let go of these mistakes in print, I think. My memoir was printed with typos, and I’ve even had a few of mistakes slip past NatGeo. I’ve learned not to beat myself up, but to try harder next time. Putting new editing tools in the arsenal certainly help this goal!